Balderdash

According to last week's edition of this journal we can look forward to an exposé of the harassment caused to the Vantage director Tim Ray by the optical bodies in setting up the compulsory CET recording scheme.

His candour in outing the so-called gerrymandering by these bodies is applauded in what I can only describe as a muddled and inaccurate editorial.

It should be remembered that Vantage is contracted to the GOC to provide an administrative and recording service for the General Optical Council's compulsory CET scheme. It is not, as the editorial suggests, 'the delivery service for mandatory learning'. It is paid by the GOC out of optical tax payers' money and it ill behoves Ray to make these comments in public.

Certainly there have been problems with the CET scheme, but without the efforts of the College of Optometrists in particular and later the Association of British Dispensing Opticians there would have been no scheme for Vantage to build on and it would have been many times more difficult to introduce.

The GOC in its wisdom decided that it did not want the professional bodies to run the scheme for an initial period, so all their work and the investment that went into it was handed to Vantage on a plate. So no feeling sorry for Ray.

The problems that have arisen have not been of the GOC's or the optical bodies' making. They have been caused by the prolonged delays in the Government  introducing the necessary legislation. Inevitably, that has led to problems and even misunderstandings and that is for the GOC to resolve as it, and not Ray, sees fit.

As for the assertion that optics rarely comes under the spotlight or is exposed to tough scrutiny, I wonder where the writer of the editorial has been living for the last 23 years. The Rottweilers at the Office of Fair Trading were set on the professions by Margaret Thatcher in 1982 and between her and Kenneth Clarke dispensing was deregulated and a fundamental principle of the NHS, the right to treatment free at the point of delivery, was breached. The lay membership of the GOC was strengthened to increase their influence and they now have the Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence (CHRE) looking over their shoulder with more to come after the latest Shipman report. All this has certainly involved a fair degree of denigration of the professions.

The voice of sanity

I am pleased that I cannot make the same criticism of the maiden speech of David Hewlett, newly appointed executive director of FODO.

His appointment can only be described as inspirational, bringing with him as he does expert knowledge of the profession and the Government's attitude towards it.

He addresses two important issues, proportionality and the need to see optical professionals as important healthcare practitioners in their own right and not simply tacked on to the end of the list.

The only question in my mind is, was this a conversion on the road to Paddington or were his efforts to get optics a fair deal frustrated elsewhere in the Department of Health?